Scientists analysing ancient DNA from Egyptian mummies have discovered they overwhelmingly share genes with people from Europe and not Africa, as previously believed.
The first ever full-genome study of mummies dating from 1400 BC to 400 AD found that the ancient Egyptians were closely related to populations in the Levant – now modern day Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
Daily Mail reports: They were also genetically similar to Neolithic populations from the Anatolian Peninsula and Europe. In plain English, Egyptians were related to Persians, Rome and Greece whom were all white European people.
The groundbreaking study used recent advances in DNA sequencing techniques to undertake a closer examination of mummy genetics than ever before.
The study, published in Nature Communications, found that modern Egyptians who are actually just Arab invaders, share more ancestry with Sub-Saharan Africans than ancient Egyptians did.
The data shows that modern Egyptians share approximately eight per cent more ancestry on the nuclear level with Sub-Saharan African populations than with ancient Egyptians.
Egypt is a promising location for the study of ancient populations because it was a world-wide trading hub.
This is likely the reason that ancient Egyptians had such a diverse genetic heritage, the authors, from the University of Tuebingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, said.
‘The population history of Egypt is complex because it is found at the ispus of Africa, the gateway to a continent, and has seen much historical turnover,’ Max Planck Director for the Science of Human History and study lead author Professor Johannes Krause told MailOnline.
‘Ancient Egypt in the 1millenium BC had been dominated by many foreign powers.
The team’s research involved unravelling the genetic history of Egyptians by comparing DNA samples taken from both modern and ancient natives.
The researchers were aiming to establish an exhaustive genetic database to study the ancient past of Egypt for the first time.
‘It has been much debated whether foreign dominations such as Assyrians, Nunbians, Greeks or Romans changed the gene pool of ancient Europe, making them more or less African,’ Professor Krause told MailOnline.
‘We wanted to test that and found that there is genetic continuity between the old kingdom and Roman period.
HOW THE STUDY WAS DONE
Mummified human DNA is normally difficult to study because of chemical treatment of the bodies before mummification, and due to the warm environment they are kept in.
But new genetic techniques used by the team allowed them to study mummified DNA in greater detail than ever before.
The team sampled 151 mummified individuals from the archaeological site of Abusir el-Meleq, along the Nile River in Middle Egypt.
In total, the authors recovered mitochondrial genomes from 90 individuals, and genome-wide datasets from three individuals.
The genome-wide samples are the first ever taken from mummified remains.
The team compared this ancient Egyptian DNA to genome samples from modern Egyptians to analyse differences in genetic makeup.
‘However in the last 1,500 years Egypt became more genetically African, whereas the ancient Egyptians showed almost no sub-Saharan African ancestry and high affinity to ancient Near Eastern and European populations.’